Researchers on the bleeding edge of physics, chemistry and engineering are experimenting with exotic-sounding substances to be used in microchips. They include graphene, black phosphorus, transition metal dichalcogenides, and boron nitride nanosheets. Collectively, they’re known as 2-D materials, since they are flat sheets only an atom or two thick. Largely unknown just 20 years ago, they are now regularly fabricated in labs, using methods as mundane as a blender and as tricky as high-temperature vapor deposition.
Some of the results of this research can already be found in devices on sale today, but the bulk are expected to turn up over the next decade, bringing new capabilities to our gadgets. These will include novel features such as infrared night-vision mode in smartphones, and profound ones such as microchips that are 10 times faster and more power-efficient. This could enable new forms of human-computer interaction, such as augmented-reality systems that fit into everyday eyeglasses.